My flight Saturday night from Bangalore to Ho Chi Minh City proceeded via Bangkok, where -- surprise! -- my transfer took me past, oh, about two miles of exclusive storefronts.
The landscape near Bangkok…
…and the landscape as I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon, or just HCMC for short).
The name of the game in HCMC is motorcycles: everyone (well, almost) has one, you can start riding a less powerful one at age 15, and when it's raining you just adapt.
Motorcyles, motorcycle shops, and motorcycle repairmen are everywhere.
Here are a few shots of HCMC, starting with the ubiquitous telephone wires…
…proceeding to Notre Dame Cathedral…
…and the opera house!
Got growth? Yep, though not quite up to that of a few years ago. HCMC is basically the hub for state capitalism and a rising middle class.
Funny how familiar consumer identity can be.
I traveled in Vietnam with my colleague Bruce Suttmeier, a professor of Japanese literature at Lewis & Clark who will head up the overseas program in Vietnam spring 2010.
Rylan Higgins heads up CET Academic Programs (www.cetacademicprograms.com) in Vietnam, our overseas program provider. Rylan has a Ph.D. in anthropology based on his research in Vietnam on the aspiring middle class, and proved a great conversationalist around connections and disjuctures between cultural, economic, and political liberalization. Here Rylan is delivering a background lecture to students visiting from Towson University in Baltimore.
Bruce and Rylan in the Vietnamese Language Studies center, which provides language training to our students in HCMC and Hanoi.
On Monday afternoon, Bruce and I visited the War Remnants Museum, once given names such as Museum of American War Crimes but euphemized following U.S. normalization. The displays are terribly graphic, however, and one cannot leave unchanged.
Names of Vietnamese who died in the My Lai Massacre
Agent Orange defoliant spraying, which continues to produce human and ecological consequences in Vietnam.
Our next museum visit destination in HCMC was what is now called Reunification Palace, the former palace of the South Vietnamese government. Here is the iconic photo of North Vietnamese troops entering the palace in 1975.
The same gate today, looking from the palace.
A large conference hall in the palace.
In the secure basement were a set of rooms to coordinate military operations during the war, including a detailed set of maps.
Right next to Reunification Palace is a park, frequented at night by couples on motorcycles looking for a bit of privacy.
On Tuesday morning we headed off with students from Loyola University to visit Thang Long English and Vocational School, a service of the Saigon Children's Charity (www.saigonchildren.com) focusing on youth who are struggling to remain in school for economic or other reasons. Here is the community near where their school is located.
We thought we found the school when we found some children!
And we certainly disrupted their school day. But alas we were incorrect, and soon headed off in the right direction.
Here's Paul Finnis from Saigon Children's Charity providing us with an overview.
Two older students from SCC.
One cannot end this brief note on HCMC without commenting on its fantastic food: Bruce has diligently recorded each of our meals in English and Vietnamese. Here we're having lunch with our Vietnamese language instructor, Binh, from VLS. Now off today to the Mekong Delta.